Learning from the past

"If you don't learn from history then you are doomed to repeat it."  This is a phrase that I've heard uttered many, many times and the meaning of it is pretty obvious.  Learn from the mistakes of the past so that they do not become a part of your present.

Each week I have the chance to teach middle and high school history at an independent school and this past class we were discussing the fall of Rome.  As a way of illustrating the reasons why Rome fell, I divided the students into groups of three and had them design their own kingdom.  Everything from what kind of government they would have, military prowess, geographical location, and economical considerations were theirs to decide.  And they also had to decide which among them would be leader in their new kingdom.

I have to admit that I wish school was always this fun.  The creativity and answers that they gave were hysterical if not a little bit impossible.  They were big dreamers and planners!  However, one thing remained true for each group - they could not decide who should be the primary leader of their kingdom and so they found ways to split the leadership roles co-equally.  While this sounds nice and fair, as they discussed the day-to-day issues of how to handle their power there was rarely unanimous consent.  If they had only learned from history that there just aren't many successful models of countries that operate under equal co-leadership, Rome being no exception.

History serves us invaluably in our own personal lives as well.  We've all done things that we've regretted or that have gotten us into hot water.  If you've found yourself in a similar situation that got you in trouble the first time around, then you know that you've got a decision to make.  Will you risk making the same mistakes of your past or will you learn from them and therefore avoid the same pitfalls the next time?

The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah had the unenviable task of pronouncing judgment against the kingdom of Judah - his own country!  And to no one's surprise he was not received very favorably when he delivered God's words to them.  Jeremiah 26:1-19 records just such a time when Jeremiah spoke out in obedience to God, but this time the other religious leaders wanted to kill him for it.  They had heard enough.  Fortunately for Jeremiah, the city officials of Judah intervened and, when they heard the whole story, they did something that was amazingly brilliant - they looked to the past to determine how to handle the situation they found themselves in right then.

They recalled that years before, when a king named Hezekiah ruled Judah, a prophet by the name of Micah prophesied similar pronouncements against the country and its people.  In that instance, the people of Judah repented of their sinfulness and as a result God relented in His judgment against them.  As a result of this history lesson, they released Jeremiah instead of killing him for speaking God's truth.

Life truly is one giant lesson and there are many mistakes and successes from our past that are there for us to learn and grow from.  You can choose to learn from the mistakes of the past or you will be doomed to repeat them. 

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